The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has said its operatives can arrest individuals without a warrant of arrest.
The EFCC Director of Legal and Prosecution, Chilo Okoroma, told members of the Senate committee on anti-corruption that the commission is empowered to arrest, ”with or without a warrant.”
The committee was mandated by the whole house to investigate the arrest of the Chairman of Innoson Motors, Innocent Chukwuma, by the EFCC.
The committee restricted its probe to the circumstances that surrounded the arrest of Mr. Innocent as other matters are currently before the court of law.
“We can arrest a person with or without a warrant. And the matter for which we have invited him for, the law did not state that we can’t arrest him without a warrant,” Mr. Okoroma said in reply to an inquiry by Dino Melaye, a member of the committee, on whether the EFCC had a warrant of arrest before swooping on Mr. Innocent.
The lawmaker was, however, not satisfied with the response of the EFCC official.
“Did you have a warrant of arrest when you went to Enugu to arrest him on 19th of December? Yes or no?”, he questioned again.
But Mr. Okoroma refused to answer the question ‘satisfactorily’, a situation which incurred the anger of the lawmakers who threatened to walk him out for being ‘incompetent to appear before the committee.’
He thereafter asked for more time to make consultation to enable him give a definite answer to the question.
“I won’t be in a position to say whether a warrant of arrest was issued or not but I know the position of law. I will ask for your permission to verify that. I cannot categorically say,” he said.
Legal practitioner, Lekan Alabi, said the anti-graft commission can arrest an individual if such an individual decided to ignore an invitation sent to him to appear or could be on the run.
“EFCC can arrest a suspect without a warrant if they suspect that he is on the run. The normal thing for the commission is to send an invitation letter for the person to come. It is when the person has refused to come, they can swoop on him.
“In some instances, warrant of arrest is necessary. By virtue of provision of Administration of Criminal Justice Act wherein maybe they need to break into a person’s house, they need a warrant of arrest which must be signed by a magistrate so that they can legally move into the house and pick the person up.
“If he (Innocent Chukwuma) is invited and didn’t show up, they can swoop on him.”
Mr. Chukwuma reacting to the claim by EFCC that he was arrested after he ignored their invitation noted that at no time did the commission invite him.
Mr. Okoroma was, however, unable to present copies of letters inviting Mr. Innocent upon request by the senators. “We will make them available,” he said.
Earlier, the EFCC official said the areas that had to do with finances is before the court of law; hence, he would not make any comment.
“There is a process of court. We are a bit hamstrung in going into the details of this matter. There are also several cases even after the submission of petition to this committee. The petitioner also filed suits in court, in effect, he has elected for the court to determine the case.”
Similarly, an Executive Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Haruna Musa, declined to delve into the issue citing avoidance of subjudice as excuse.
“We wish to humbly and respectfully say that EFCC is a law enforcement agency statutorily empowered to discharge its functions. We are therefore not in a position to comment on the allegations made against the EFCC by any person or group of persons pending litigation of this investigation,” the official said.
The committee resolved to invite the parties at another date to continue the probe.